Mixing physical activities and literacy is one of the best way to make these topics engaging and fun. Physical education and reading are important developmental skills for children to learn at a young age. When I took physical education classes as a child, I personally loved when the teacher narrated the physical actives through stories and songs. There is a particular physical education activity from kindergarten that has somehow stuck in my memory after all of these years. I have often wondered why this is, and I realize it is quite simple—the activity was fun that was easy to remember and engaging. It challenged emerging physical skills, and it referenced spatial awareness and word recognition. Most importantly, this physical activity linked directly to a great book, “Bears in the Night,” by Stan and Jan Berenstain.

Bears in the Night
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What Is ‘Bears in the Night’ About?

“Bears in the Night” follows seven young bears that sneak out of their bed one night and wander into the dark wilderness. The bears go out their window, down a tree, over a wall, under a bridge, around a lake, through woods, and up a hill, where they are spooked by an owl. They then go back to their bed repeating the steps it took to get there. Now, I understand this activity from a literacy perspective. Our teacher introduced and read this book to us several times, focusing on the spatial words such as “up” and “down.” We became familiar with the story, and were able to retell it referencing the illustrations.

How the Activity Works

The activity that went along with Bears in the Night went like this: an obstacle course was set up in the gym. Each obstacle represented a part of the story. For example, when the bears went out their window, a hula hoop was set up for children to crawl through. I remember that we started on a mat, pretending to be the bears fast asleep. The gym teacher hooted like an owl, which woke the bears up (just like the beginning of the story), and one by one, we went through each obstacle in the same order as the story. Once we climbed the hill at the end, we repeated the course in the opposite direction until we were back “asleep” on the mat.

Final Thoughts on the Activity

This is a great activity, and I am glad I remembered it. This is an activity that allows children to demonstrate emerging developmental behaviors, physical skills, and content knowledge. Additionally, this activity can be used at school and at home. It’s also one of those activities that can take place indoors and outdoors. You can make the activity fun by switching up the obstacles and adding your own spin on the moves. Children will enjoy mixing up the storyline, as well as the different physical activities they must follow. Looking back at the activity, I can’t help but think how fun it would be to go through this obstacle course again as an adult.

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